Mindi Wikstrom, BA- August 17, 2023
Whether you're a freshman or senior, college is a time of transition. Living away from your parents, or even if you're still at home, you'll find yourself engrossed in a flurry of classes and perhaps even more clubs or sports activities. With transition comes potential mental health pitfalls. Feelings of anxiety can arise when it comes to exams, relationships, the prospect of leaving family behind, and the fear of missing out on what's happening back home.
Depression can sometimes arise from experiences such as being in a challenging relationship, facing academic setbacks, being denied an internship opportunity, or struggling to form meaningful connections with others. Regardless of the reason, prioritizing mental health becomes crucial when you're away from home and navigating the path to independence as a young adult. It is imperative to effectively manage and nurture your mental well-being during this transformative phase of life.
Here are ways to care for your mental health while at college:
1. Understand Change is Hard - Whether you're adjusting your class schedule from mornings to evenings or changing roommates, change can be challenging. It's important to give yourself grace and acknowledge that it's okay to experience negative emotions or grieve your previous expectations. However, it's also important to recognize that change brings the possibility of meeting new people and engaging in new experiences. Embracing change opens up multiple opportunities for personal growth and valuable experiences.
2. Schedule in a Walk or a Nap - Burnout is a common culprit in college. Prioritize your physical well-being by scheduling a walk or a 20-minute nap in your planner. Believe me, you'll feel much better than relying on 10 cups of coffee just to survive your 8 a.m. class.
3. Remind yourself that perfection is not the goal - I see so many college students feel like they have to have everything put together on the outside and academic-wise. Wrong. That's not the case. The point of college is to try new things and learn from your mistakes. Having a sense of perfectionism will only let you down because let's be real: no one is perfect. People do a great job of pretending like they have everything together, but no one has it all together.
4. Try to find an equal balance of socializing and studying - Let's face it, when you're paying over $20,000 for college, making friends probably should not be your top priority. You're paying for a college education. You will feel better if you study for Wednesday's tests, but you will always feel better if you can tell your friends that you're free on Friday for a movie. Finding balance is crucial in this context. Nobody enjoys receiving failing grades or sacrificing their social life. Strive to prioritize both aspects equally, to the best of your ability.
5. Don't Have Black-and-White Thinking - At times, college students may believe that their college years will be the only "good ol' days" they experience. However, it's important not to fret if you don't find a significant other after college or if your career takes a different path. Remember, life holds many more chapters, and each one offers its own unique beauty and opportunities for growth. Embrace the journey and trust that the best is yet to come. These are not your final days to explore who you are, find a life partner, or determine the path your life will take.
6. Call Your Parents or Someone from Home - While you're immersed in your own life, occupied with your own tasks, and building your own world, it's important not to overlook your parents. Take a moment to give them a call every now and then and share how you're doing. You'll be surprised how comforting and homely it feels to hear their voice. It doesn't have to be your parents specifically; a conversation with someone from home can bring immense solace.
7. Step out of your Familiar Social Circles and Broaden your Horizons - During my college years, I devoted a significant amount of time to a club, which was undoubtedly fulfilling. However, I now realize that it considerably restricted my social circles. In hindsight, I wish I had diversified my interests by exploring other clubs and expanding my network. You never know the incredible individuals you might encounter or the extraordinary adventures they could embark you on. Consider studying in a new environment, joining a sorority or fraternity, or even volunteering at a noteworthy organization (it also enhances your resume). Thankfully, college presents boundless opportunities for forging new connections!
8. Don't Stay Cooped Inside - Remember when Mom used to tell us to "go outside and get some vitamin D"? I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. Remaining indoors can leave our bodies feeling lethargic, whereas embracing the sunshine is vital for our overall well-being and vitality. Do some studying outdoors, play spikeball with friends, or go on a walk on a nearby trail!
9. Slow Down - In college, there are abundant opportunities, but it's important to acknowledge your limitations. Your physical, mental, and emotional energy are finite resources. Take the time to understand your needs and prioritize self-care. For instance, if you're an introvert and feel the urge to retreat to your room instead of socializing, honor that feeling. Establish healthy boundaries with friends and remember the importance of slowing down.
10. Pull a Prank - Listen closely: I'm not suggesting engaging in any unlawful activities, but what I am suggesting is to have a bit of fun and play a harmless prank. It creates cherished memories. Yes, college is a time for learning and personal development, but it's also a time to enjoy yourself and create lasting memories that you can share with your grandchildren in the future!
College is the time for change. You may find yourself liking things that you never did in high school, or hanging out with people that you never would in the past. But that's okay. Remember have goals, but don't set too high of expectations. You're human. You're young, and you have a lot of years left after college. If you ever want to consult someone about your fears of transitioning, or maybe you're in college and would want to talk to someone about your mental health, please reach out to one of our therapists at Creative Counseling and Studio! Call 402-401-4445 or please go to the website: https://www.creativecounselingandstudio.com/ to set up an appointment!